Radio for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights
A documentation by Dr Hansjoerg Biener
peace radio site
© PD Dr Hansjoerg Biener
created 0601, updated 0601
Comments and contributions are welcome. Material of this page may be re-printed but a complimentary copy of the publication is expected.
Red Cross Broadcasting Service (RCBS) 
19, Ave. de la Paix, CH-1202 Genève, Schweiz

In May 1995, the Red Cross Broadcasting Service was to celebrate 50 years of broadcasting. Unfortunately, it seems that the service hardly survived its Golden jubilee.

QSL-Karte des IKRK von 1978
The International Committee of the Red Cross began broadcasting in May 1945. In Europe, many ex-prisoners of war were waiting to be taken back to their homes, and they wanted their families to know they were alive. However, normal communications had broken down. Until the end of the 1940s, lists of prisoners of war and of displaced civilians were broadcast by the ICRC from the studios of Radio Geneve, and were heard by listeners in various parts of Europe. During the first three and a half years of operation, more than 600,000 names were broadcast.
The ICRC realised the usefulness of radio for rapid communication in times of crisis. The 1948 International Broadcasting Conference in Mexico City granted the ICRC its own frequency - a unique asset among international humanitarian organisations. Test transmissions began in 1951, with the object of finding out whether listeners in different parts of the world could hear the broadcast. These continued sporadically until 1965, when the ICRC installed its own studio at its Geneva headquarters and formed the Red Cross Broadcasting Service.
Broadcasts became more regular, when in 1978 the Swiss PTT gave permission for the ICRC to broadcast once a month to Europe n Arabic, English, French, German, and Spanish. Beamed transmissions  in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic were broadcast to Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The programmes were broadcast from transmitters at Schwarzenburg (directional) and Beromunster (ornni-directional). The facilities were placed at the ICRC's disposal free of charge by the PTT and Swiss Radio international. 
In times of crisis, like during the 1990s Kuwait war, there were additional broadcasts.

The RCBS staff consisted of two producers and a studio technician but relied also on the services of other ICRC staff and of professional journalists who worked part time. The aim of the programmes was to inform as wide a public as possible of the activities of the Red Cross, whether it be the ICRC, whose primary task is to protect and assist victims of conflict, the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which coordinates relief to victims of natural disasters, or the National Red Cross and Red Crescent.


QSL-Karte des IKRK von 1990
QSL-Karte des IKRK von 1992 In the early nineties the programmes of RCBS were integrated into the normal operations of Swiss Radio International.

In 1995, RCBS changed its programme schedule. After nearly 30 years of monthly broadcasts, it switched to shorter, weekly programmes via Swiss Radio International in English, French, German and Spanish, while SRI continued to produce monthly programmes about the ICRC in six languages. 
In September the institution joined the fast expanding World Wide Web (, introducing a vast number of publications and keeping users up to date with ICRC activities with press releases and other information. This seems to have ushered in the end of the service. Even on the pages of ICRC the last reference to RCBS was in 1996.

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